The Scottish experimental band Young Fathers has been officially removed from the lineup of Germany’s annual Ruhrtriennale music and arts festival due to their support for the anti-Israel BDS movement.
The festival asked Young Fathers to distance themselves from BDS, which stands for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” The movement is based on the idea that Israel exploits Palestinians and protests Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and country’s aggressive military actions against them. When the band refused to disassociate, it was uninvited to the festival.
Ruhtriennale released a statement on its website, writing, “Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS. We explicitly do not conclude from this that the band is anti-Semitic, and, in this context, I consider it important to emphasise that criticism of the policy of the current Israeli government is not per se equivalent to anti-Semitism.”
“However, the Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign,” the statement continues. “We have therefore decided to cancel the concert. We regret this immensely, because the Young Fathers would have set an important tone in the programme of the Ruhrtriennale.”
The band, who won the Mercury Prize in the U.K. back in 2014, also released a statement on the website of Artists for Palestine, an organization that brings together artists in support of a resolution between Israel and Palestine.
“Anyone who knows the band and our history will know we oppose all forms of hatred and racial discrimination,” they wrote. “Always have. And we, like BDS, ‘do not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia.’”
“We support one of the only peaceful protests a person can take, in the hope to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that allows Palestinian refugees the right to return to a safe homeland, and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace.”
Ruhrtriennale’s decision comes at a time of rising concern about anti-Semitism in Germany, particularly among the country’s growing number of immigrants. Earlier this year, rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang won the ECHO Award for best hip-hop/urban album, the country’s equivalent of a Grammy, sparking outrage over a lyric about Auschwitz many decried as anti-Semitic. The backlash was so severe, Germany’s Music Industry Association decided to discontinue the ECHO Award.
It also comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine, after at least 120 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured in the past few weeks protesting near the Gaza border fence.
Billboard has reached out the Young Fathers’ reps for additional comment.